Provincial plaque memorializes Stratford Shakespeare Festival founder Tom Patterson

STRATFORD, Ontario, July 13, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Perth County Historical Foundation unveiled a provincial plaque to commemorate Stratford Shakespeare Festival founder Tom Patterson.

"Tom Patterson's vision and perseverance were the driving forces behind the phenomenal success of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival," said Dr. Thomas H.B. Symons, Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust. "We are proud to honour his dedication with this provincial plaque."

The plaque reads as follows:


A native of Stratford, Ontario, Tom Patterson grew up during the Great Depression and dreamed of plans that might revitalize his community. After serving in the Second World War and completing university, he worked as an associate editor for a trade publication in Toronto. During the early 1950s, Patterson began discussing plans to establish an internationally renowned Shakespearean festival in his hometown. Although considered a risky venture by some, Patterson gained encouragement from Mayor David Simpson and the local council, and from British Shakespearean director Tyrone Guthrie. Through determination and perseverance, Patterson was able, in less than two years, to turn his dream into reality. The Stratford Shakespearean Festival opened in July 1953 with a production of Richard III, and created a new standard for North American theatre. Remaining with the Festival until 1967, Patterson was also founding director of the Canadian Theatre Centre and founding president of the National Theatre School. He received numerous honours for his work, including Officer of the Order of Canada (1977).

"The Stratford Shakespeare Festival has become an internationally renowned cultural institution," said Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan. "Tom Patterson created a new standard for theatre in North America that remains to this day."

The unveiling ceremony occurred on the Stratford Festival Theatre grounds, where the provincial plaque will be permanently installed. Event supporters included: the City of Stratford, Orr Insurance and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

"The history of theatre in Canada is divided into two parts; namely, the part before Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of Richard III on the stage of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival on July 13, 1953, and the time after July 13, 1953," said Roger Hilderley, Chair of the Perth County Historical Foundation. "Tom Patterson of Stratford, Ontario, is the person whose vision and determination in the founding of the festival created this watershed in Canada's cultural landscape and is one of Stratford's greatest citizens."

"Tom Patterson not only gave us a great idea, he also gave the Festival an extraordinary spirit," said Antoni Cimolino, General Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. "His joy, his love of talent and his strong belief in the seemingly impossible have come to define the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. We are such stuff as Tom's dreams were made on."

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario, dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

Quick facts:

- The Ontario Heritage Trust's Provincial Plaque Program commemorates significant people, places and events in Ontario's history.

- Since 1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.

- There are 103 provincial plaques across Ontario commemorating arts and culture.

For more information on the Provincial Plaque Program, visit www.heritagetrust.on.ca